SETX’s basketball star just misses leading team to NCAA tournament

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, March 15, 2022

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FRISCO, TEXAS — The stunned expression on Kenneth Lofton Jr.’s face said it all – from the shock and disbelief of losing in the Conference USA Championship Game to the quiet resolve that he could bring the Louisiana Tech Men’s Basketball Team to its first NCAA Tournament in more than three decades, next year.

But Saturday at The Star — the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys that doubled as C-USA’s Tournament host — was the site of a Louisiana Tech run that came up just short.

The Bulldogs (24-10) lost to UAB, 82-73. Lofton finished with a team-high 23 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

The former Memorial High star helped Louisiana Tech rally from a 19-point first half deficit. Lofton trimmed it to 10 with a thunderous dunk just before halftime.

Kenneth Lofton Jr. throws down a dunk before halftime of the conference championship game. (Courtesy photo)

Louisiana Tech would get as close as three points in the final two minutes, but that was it.

Lofton burst on to the college basketball scene last year and was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year.

He wowed fans with his throwback style of posting up opponents, most of whom have several inches on him, and making them pay in the paint. Lofton Jr. averaged 16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds through 32 games this season.

Lofton Jr. entered the year on the Naismith Trophy Watch List and the Karl Malone Award Watch List and may have a chance to join Louisiana Tech legends like Malone and Paul Millsap in reaching the NBA in a few years.

“He’s been our go-to guy,” Louisiana Tech head coach Eric Konkol said. “I’m so proud of his growth the last two years and the work he’s put in. He’s one of the best players out there. He’s going to keep working and working and getting better and better. He’s got a bright, bright future.”

Louisiana Tech, which upset C-USA Regular Season Champion North Texas in the Conference Semifinals on Friday, missed out on an NIT bid following that tournament’s field announcement Sunday night.

“After the season, we’ll meet with him and his parents,” Konkol said. “Of course, his aspirations are to play in the NBA, and that’s what we want for him. We’ll go through that process and help him as best we can.”